The number of smartphone owners using ad-blocking browsers nearly doubled last year, according to fresh data from PageFair and Priori Data, and more than one-fifth of the world's smartphone users are blocking ads on the mobile web.
The companies said at least 419 million people are blocking ads on their smartphones, and ad-blocking software is particularly popular in emerging markets including China, India, Pakistan and Indonesia. Thirty-six percent of smartphone users in Asia-Pacific block ads on the mobile web, compared to 22 percent of the world's 1.9 billion smartphone users that block online ads on their handsets.
Nearly 160 million smartphone owners in China use ad-blocking software, and 122 million Indian users block ads on their phones. Only 2.3 million American smartphone owners use ad-blocking browsers, the companies said.
PageFair is a startup that provides ad-serving technology aimed at circumventing ad-blocking software. Priori Data tracks apps in Apple's App Store and Google Play across dozens of countries.
Interestingly, Priori Data's research indicates ad blocking may be more related to a sluggish user experience and pricey data services than to the ads themselves, which are often seen as obtrusive.
"Adblocking browsers improve page speed and reduce bandwidth consumption on mobile," according to PageFair's report. "Accordingly, they are most rapidly adopted in markets where mobile data infrastructure is less developed and therefore slow and/or expensive relative to income."
But ad-blocking may be well positioned to begin to gain significant traction in more mature Western markets as well. The European network operator Three said last week that it would begin testing ad-blocking technology on its network in the U.K. in June, and Google made headlines in February when it restored an ad blocker for Samsung's mobile browser after removing the app just days after it made its Android debut, shooting to the top of download charts.
"Mobile adblocking is a serious threat to the future of media and journalism in emerging markets, where people are coming online for the first time via relatively expensive or slow mobile connections," PageFair said in its report. "Usage in Western economies is likely to grow as more manufacturers and browsers start to include adblocking as a feature."
- see PageFair's report (PDF)
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